No new hydro project plans despite Bill

The sun rises over the Kaiwera Downs wind farm near Mataura recently. The wind farm will soon...
Wind and solar power generation appear to be the choice of generation for companies in the future. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
No new hydro-electricity stations are on the horizon in the South, despite new fast-track legislation being brought in and more than half of the country’s power coming from hydro dams.

Wind and solar power generation appear to be the choice of generation for companies in the future with hydro electricity being placed in the too hard basket.

The last major hydro project to be completed in the South was the Clyde Dam, which came into full operation about 30 years ago.

The fast-track Bill proposes to establish a regime for a range of infrastructure, housing and development projects. Electricity generation falls into this category with renewable energy the preferred option.

Hydro schemes such as those on the Waitaki and Clutha Rivers and the Manapouri scheme contribute to meet electricity demands for the country. Hydro power contributes 57% of power generation for the country, although that can vary depending on water storage.

Manawa Energy has hydro-power plants at Paerau, Patearoa, Deep Stream and Waipori, which feed power into Dunedin and other areas.

Manawa said it was generally supportive of the Bill’s potential for speeding up projects and reconsenting assets.

A Manawa Energy spokeswoman said it was critical meaningful engagement still occurred with key stakeholders.

But the Bill might not help get a hydro project across the line.

"With respect to hydro, there’s a high degree of complexity, cost and construction risk associated with this infrastructure compared to wind and solar development options.

"This legislation is unlikely to have a material impact on Manawa’s appetite for new hydro development. Manawa does consider the Bill may be supportive of modest operational and efficiency enhancements at existing hydro assets," she said.

Other factors influencing the deployment of new renewables included general market conditions, supply chain costs and timeframes to connect to the transmission network along with other issues.

The ability to get project go-ahead has been hindered by lengthy consenting timeframes, increasing consenting costs and uncertainty associated with the current consenting process.

Manawa Energy, along with Pioneer Energy, is considering developing the Kaihiku wind farm in South Otago — a 300MW project which is still in the planning stages. It may consider fast-tracking the project.

Meridian Energy, which operates much of the Waitaki hydro system, said it was not considering any new hydro opportunities.

"The development of new renewable energy assets is a critical step in helping decarbonise New Zealand’s economy. We have two projects described in our submission to the select committee for consideration — Waiinu Energy Park and Western Bay Solar," Meridian development general manager Guy Waipara said.

Western Bay Solar is a 500MW solar development on the western side of Lake Taupo and the Waiinu Energy Park is a combined solar, wind farm with a battery energy storage system.

Mr Waipara said Meridian did not have any active new hydro-generation projects and the new Bill did not change that.

Contact Energy operates the Clyde and Roxburgh Dams on the Clutha River. In 2009 it looked at four possible sites on the Clutha River but those plans were dropped in 2012. It appears unlikely to revisit those plans.

Contact has $1.2 billion of renewable generation under construction, with a significant pipeline of well-advanced renewable generation projects across geothermal, solar, wind and grid-scale battery. It did not mention any hydro developments. — Additional reporting Steve Hepburn